Following is a Lansing State Journal opinion article submitted by Acting Superintendent, Mark Coscarella.
"Student safety is priority number one in the Lansing School District and bully prevention is key to ensuring the safety of students and adults. However, the term ‘bullying’ is frequently misunderstood and often used to include conflict, disagreement, or being mean-spirited.
A conflict between two people is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views. In a conflict, children and adults may express their ideas in a less than civil way, however they are able to look at their behavior and change it knowing that they may have crossed the line. This recognition of hurting someone else is empathy. Mediation can often solve the issue peacefully by collaboratively finding common ground and a solution.
However, bullying is harmful behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person over an extended period of time. The bully is seeking attention from bystanders or the victim and often has problems of their own. The difference between the definitions is important because how we solve the two situations will require very different approaches.
In a conflict situation, individuals can come together through mediation and find a resolution. The solution is beneficial to both sides and is mutual. Conflict mediation usually does not help with bully behavior because often the bully lacks empathy towards the target and believes their behavior is justified and does not see it as bullying.
Bully behavior usually involves three people or groups, the person exhibiting the bully behavior, the individual that is experiencing the behavior, and the bystanders. We need to first address the bully behavior, understand it, and stop it. We also need to work with the person being bullied and empower them to get help to stop the bullying. Lastly, we need to educate and empower the bystanders to intervene or go get help with the bullying behavior. A comprehensive program to address bully prevention is important.
The Lansing School District has several resources to address bully prevention. In all of our schools, we have mental health experts in all of our schools – called Student Support Specialists – who work with our principals and teachers to provide behavioral and mental health support to students. These professionals meet with small groups and individuals, provide classrooms lessons, and work with families to ensure our students are safe and healthy.
All of the Public Safety Officers from the district’s Office of School Culture are trained in helping students identify, report, and stop bullying behavior. Students can also use ‘OK2SAY’ to confidentially report a potential safety issue through a website, app, phone number, or text.
We are aggressively committed to eliminating all bully behavior in our school district. Our community can help with this by understanding the difference between bullying and conflict and by alerting our staff of any unacceptable behavior. Keeping all of our students safe is our number one priority."